HIV child hopes for the future

July 16, 2010

Chan Chan, WCRP

“I don’t want to take a lot of medicine. It is very boring. I just want to be the same as the other children. They don’t have to take medicine like me,” said Mi Saw, a Mon child who lives in the Safe House run by the Thailand-Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), near Huay Malai in Kanchnaburi province, Thailand.

Mi Saw* is 13-years-old and HIV positive. She lived in Halockanee, an Internally Displaced Person’s (IDP) resettlement site, on the Burmese side of the Thai-Burma border with her mother and father before moving to the Safe House. Her parents were diagnosed with AIDS when she was 5-years-old. Her mother died first and Mi Saw was left to care for her ailing father. She is the only daughter in her family and when her father died, she had no close relatives to live with. The teacher from her village told her about the Safe House and she arrived there in February 2006.

“I am in grade 3 at the Thai-Christian School near the Safe house,” said Mi Saw. “When I arrived here I was crying, but now I am happy to stay here with my friends. I can speak 3 languages: Burmese, Thai and Karen. I go to school from 8am to 4pm and when I finish, I go to my room to do my homework and play with my friends. When I have free time, I make Karen bags and Karen T-shirts to help the Safe House.”

Mi Saw goes to the Kwai River Christian hospital in Sangkhlaburi, Kanchanaburi Province, monthly, there she is given the medicine she needs to control the HIV. She has to take pills twice a day, at 7 in the morning and 7 in the evening. The white pills are very large and they stick in her throat. She does not like to take them, but she knows they help her. When she first arrived at the safe house, she had lesions all over her body. These have now gone thanks to the medicine.

Ma Joe Phyu, a 49-year-old Karen woman from Kyain Seikgyi Township, Karen State, is responsible for the children who live at the Safe House:

“I am their teacher. My duty is to care for 30 children including 3 children who are HIV positive. I teach them on the weekends, prepare food, and make sure they are healthy … I also teach them Burmese, English, Karen, and Mathematics. We started the children’s Safe House program in 2005 with eight children, we now have 30. I take care of them as if they were my own children. I always tell them to try hard at school because education is so important for their future. I can tell them to try hard many times, but it is up to them. If they work hard they’ll have a chance to attend high school and university. If they study hard and succeed in school their futures will be better.”

TBBC provides the medicine for the children at the Safe House and God’s Kids Christian organization provides the funds for their education, food and clothes.

In the past, most of the HIV/AIDS patients that came to the Safe House clinic were men, but now the clinic is admitting more women. Daw Paw Lu Lu, the coordinator and co-founder of the Safe House, believes this increase is due to the rise in women migrating to and working in Thailand.

“Some men don’t control themselves and they contract HIV, and they give it to their wives who then pass it on to their children. We feel for the innocent children who are born with HIV. It is not good for their future. In 2009, a 5-year-old child and a 2-year-old child arrived to the Safe House after both their parents died from HIV/AIDS. The children had also contracted HIV from the parents. They now go to the hospital every month. The 5-year-old child is in grade one at the Thai-Christian school. There has been an increase in children being admitted who have contracted HIV/AIDS from their parents” Said Daw Paw Lu Lu.

In her room, Mi Saw keeps a photo of her old teacher from her village in Halockhanee by her bed. She looks at the photo and talks about her teacher often.

“Now I am in grade three. When I grow up I want to be a teacher. This is my wish. I would like to teach the children like me who have no parents and I would like to help those children like my teacher helped me.”

*Editor’s Note: Names have been changed for security purposes


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